Chapter Two - Welcome to Bomont
"And then he just got down on one knee and proposed!" Urleen exclaimed. "Right there in front of my parents!"
Everybody laughed and clapped appreciatively. The girls were admiring Urleen's engagement ring and the guys were teasing Travis about being whipped. They were all hanging out at the Burger Blast, listening to Urleen recount exactly how Travis proposed to her yesterday.
"When's the wedding going to be?" Abigail asked.
"We want a long engagement, so probably in about three years," Urleen replied.
"What are y'all going to do in the mean time?" Bickle asked.
"Well, Leena and I both got into GeorgiaState, so we'll be going there in the fall," Travis said, answering his friend.
"But Atlanta's so far away," Jezebel complained.
Urleen placed her hands over Jezebel's, the engagement ring sparkling for all to see. "We'll visit, don't worry! Besides, we still have the summer!"
Urleen turned to Ren and giggled. "I think this might even make the town forget about your little scandal earlier this year."
The gang all laughed at that, except Rusty. She was leaning against Willard, who had his arm around her, and was casually looking at her nails.
"Oh, I don't know, Urleen," she said nonchalantly. "You never know what secret, scandalous things people are hiding."
She pointedly looked at Ariel, who glared fiercely at her. It had been a week since Rusty found out about Ariel's pregnancy, and Ariel still hadn't told Ren.
"Have you two heard anything from Chuck?" Rusty asked Travis and Lyle.
The former friends of Chuck shook their heads.
"He doesn't come into town much," Travis said.
"He mostly spends his time at the old water tower," added Lyle.
Urleen folded her arms. "Well good riddance."
"You two tell us your plans for next year," Ariel said to Rusty and Willard.
"Willard and I decided to take a gap year between now and college," Rusty replied.
"You two gonna travel?" Lyle asked.
"Ye - "
"We haven't talked about it," Willard said. "But I like it just fine here in Bomont."
"Are you saying you never want to leave?" Rusty asked, sitting up and looking sharply at him.
"Why would I?" he replied. "I've got everything I need right here: a roof over my head, my mama, and you."
Rusty smiled tightly and then settled down against Willard's chest again. She felt disturbed. Why was Willard lying? They'd talked about traveling, about seeing the sights around the country, and then going to college together.
The awkward silence that followed the obvious tension between Rusty and Willard was interrupted by the sound of an obnoxiously loud motorcycle. And that was strange, because nobody in Bomont rode a motorcycle. The motorcycle and its mysterious rider parked in front of the Burger Blast. Then the rider dismounted and took off his helmet, and walked into the Burger Blast.
"Darlin', don't look now," Wendy Jo started to Urleen, "but I think a bigger scandal than your engagement just walked in the door."
Urleen pouted and folded her arms. Travis kissed her cheek and put his arm around her.
"Well hello there tall, dark, and handsome," Jezebel murmured, eyes fixed on the stranger. That caused everybody to laugh. She jabbed Ren's arm. "Invite him to sit with us!"
"What?" he asked, only to receive another jab with her fingers.
The stranger was by himself at a table and everybody in the restaurant was staring at him, but he didn't seem to mind, or even notice. Betty Blast took his order and then rolled off on her skates. Jezebel jabbed him even harder, so he excused himself from their table to go talk to the stranger.
"Hello," Ren said. The stranger looked at him and smiled. "I'm Ren McCormack, and you are?"
"Tony Ackerman," he replied, shaking Ren's hand.
"Nice to meet you, Tony. You new in town?"
"You could say that."
Ren smiled. "Well, coming from someone who was new a few months ago, it's kind of tough to start in a town where everybody has known each other since birth. Why don't you come and sit with me and my friends?"
"I'd like that," Tony said.
Jezebel let out a squeak when she saw that they were coming over. She ordered Ariel to scoot hers and Ren's chairs over. Ariel and Rusty exchanged eye rolls over Jezebel's constant need to flirt.
"Hey guys, meet Tony Ackerman," Ren said.
Everybody waved and greeted him politely.
"Tony, this is Ariel Moore, Jezebel Miller, Jeter Rhea, Abigail Holbrook, Travis Gage, Urleen Taylor - "
"Soon to be Gage," Urleen interrupted, flashing her engagement ring.
Tony nodded and smiled. "Congratulations."
" - Rusty Irving, Willard Hewitt, Poppy Blackwell, Bickle Ludder, Wendy Jo Lewis, Lyle Kirkpatrick, Garvin Bailey, and Shasta Steiner."
"Nice to meet you all," Tony said.
"Nice to meet you," Jezebel replied with a giggle.
Ren pulled a chair from another table and placed it in the spot where Jezebel had made room. She was overjoyed. Ren sat back next to Ariel and took her hand.
"So, Tony, do you have any family here?" Shasta asked.
"Any connection to this town at all?" Jeter asked.
Everybody exchanged glances.
"Then why in the world would you come to middle of nowhere Bomont, Georgia?" Rusty asked.
"To meet local pretty girls like you," Tony replied with a wink.
Rusty blushed and looked away, leaning against Willard. His arm tightened around his girlfriend as he narrowed his eyes at Tony.
"Pretty taken girls too?" Willard asked with hostility.
Tony held his hands up. "Sorry man, didn't realize."
Willard grunted and stared at the tabletop. Betty came by and gave them all their burgers.
Poppy cleared her throat. "So, why are you here?"
"I've been traveling the country," Tony explained. "I was born in New York and I graduated from high school last year. College right after high school wasn't really the thing for me, so I convinced my parents to let me travel. And now I've been to almost every continental US state."
"That doesn't explain why you came to Bomont of all places," Jeter said.
Tony shrugged. "I find that small towns have the most interesting stories. Big cities are just a mesh of people who pass by each other every day without ever knowing the other person. Small towns are much more intimate."
"Have you been to big cities?" Rusty asked.
He nodded. "Oh yeah. I'm not saying they're not fun, don't get me wrong. I've been all over the place. Los Angeles, Dallas, New York City, Nashville, Las Vegas..."
Rusty sat up and listened intently, her eyes sparkling with interest as he listed off the places that she'd only dreamed about.
"And you go all those places on that motorcycle?" Garvin asked.
"That sounds so thrilling," Rusty said.
Tony nodded. "Nothing but me and the wide open road. I'm free to go wherever I want, and nobody has any say in it."
Rusty's eyes grew distant as she imagined what it was like to have no rules other than the ones you set for yourself. Shasta glanced at her phone and saw the time.
"Half an hour till curfew, guys," she said.
"Curfew?" Tony asked.
"It's midnight for everybody over twenty-one," Jeter explained. "But for us it's eleven on weekends and during vacation, and nine on school nights."
"Which we don't have to worry about anymore," Abigail pointed out.
"You guys just out of high school?" Tony asked.
Poppy nodded. "Graduated just last week."
"Well, welcome to the world," Tony said with a grin.
"Welcome to Bomont," Ariel replied with a grimace.
Everybody laughed as they finished their food and made their way out to the parking lot. Urleen, Travis, Lyle, Poppy, and Shasta left in Travis' truck.
"C'mon Rusty," Ariel said.
"Willard's going to take me home," Rusty said. "You go with Ren."
"Does everyone else have a ride?" Willard asked.
"I'm taking Leena, Lyle, Poppy, and Shasta," Travis replied.
"Abigail and Jezebel are coming with me," Wendy Jo said.
"And I'm going with Jeter and Garvin," Bickle answered.
"Do you have a place to stay?" Jezebel asked Tony, batting her eyelashes.
Tony laughed. "Yes, I'm staying at the Mapleberry Lodge."
"What ever you do, don't eat their lasagna," Abigail told him.
He looked wary. "Why?"
"You don't want to know."
They all laughed and Tony wasn't sure whether they were joking with him or not. He waved goodbye and went to his motorcycle, sticking his helmet on his head and taking off down the road.
"It must be so much fun to ride a motorcycle," Rusty sighed.
"Fun until you crash and die," Willard replied. "Let's go."
The group split up and went to their respective trucks and cars. Ren began walking when Ariel caught his wrist.
"I have to go to the bathroom," she said.
"Right now?" he asked.
"Yes, can you come with me?"
"I - "
Ariel dragged him back into the Burger Blast and into the girls' restroom.
"Ariel, I can't be in here," Ren said in a panic. "If Betty finds me in here she could fire me."
"I have to talk to you," she said.
"We could have talked in the car," he pointed out.
She shook her head. "I would've chickened out. But I have to do it now."
"Is it serious?" he asked.
"Are you in trouble?"
He gripped her shoulders. "Ariel, I'm here for you. Whatever it is, I'm here."
Tears sprang into her eyes and she turned away from him.
"There's something I didn't tell you about the night Chuck beat me up."
She swallowed. "He...he raped me."
Ren's body went cold, and then hot with fury. He balled his hands into fists and punched the wall, making Ariel jump with surprise.
"I'll kill him," he growled. "I'll find him and rip him to shreds!"
"Ren, no," she protested, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"Why didn't you tell me before?" he asked, turning and taking her hands in his.
She shrugged. "I didn't want to admit it."
"So what changed?"
A tear rolled down her cheek and Ren gently wiped it away. She pulled her hands out of his and placed them over her stomach in a maternal way. His eyes widened as he filled in the blanks.
"You're pregnant?!" he yelled.
She put a hand over his mouth. "Not so loud! What if Betty hears you?"
"You're pregnant," he said slowly, "with Chuck's baby?"
She nodded tearfully. He took her into his arms and hugged her tightly. He kissed the top of her head.
"We'll get through this together," he said. "I'm here for you, I - "
He pulled away from her.
"I'll marry you," he said. "We'll get married and tell everybody that it's my baby. Chuck will never have to know."
"No, Ren," she protested. "What about college? Life beyond Bomont?"
"We could still leave," he said.
"I can't go to college with a baby!" she exclaimed. "And I'm going to need my parents' help to raise this baby."
"I'm still going to marry you."
"No, you're not," she said. "I don't want to ruin your life."
He kissed her softly. "You are my life."
She nodded. "I don't want to steal Urleen's engagement thunder."
Ren laughed. "I can't believe that is what you're worried about."
"I can't believe you're not worried about Urleen's wrath," she said.
"We don't have to get married right away," he replied. "We can tell your parents first. Who else knows?"
"Just Rusty," she answered.
"Then we'll tell your parents tomorrow," Ren said.
They hugged each other and she buried her face in his shoulder, wishing that the rest of the world would disappear and leave them be.
"Don't worry," he whispered.
She laughed a little, because she knew that was all she was going to be doing for the next nine months.
~ everybodycutfootloose ~
"One sec, I left my sweater inside," Wendy Jo said to Abigail and Jezebel.
She shut the door to her car and went back inside the Burger Blast. She spied her pink sweater discarded on the back of the chair she'd been sitting in. She picked it up and turned to leave.
Wendy Jo froze when she heard Ren's voice coming from the women's restroom. She crept over and pressed her ear against the door. He'd lowered his voice, which made it harder to hear through the door, but she could still pick out a few words.
"...here for you...marry you...get married...my baby..."
She staggered away from the door. It was Ren and Ariel, no doubt about it. And they were going to get married and have a baby!
She ran back out to her car, slamming her door.
"What took you so long?" Abigail asked.
"Ariel's pregnant!" she yelled.
"What?!" Abigail and Jezebel exclaimed.
Wendy Jo nodded. "Ren and Ariel are going to have a baby and he's going to marry her!"
"Does anybody else know?" Abigail asked.
"I don't think so."
"Well, we can't tell anybody. It's their business and - oh no!"
"What?" Wendy Jo asked.
She pointed to the back seat at Jezebel. "You told Jezebel!"
"Hey!" Jezebel said indignantly. "What's the matter with that?"
Wendy Jo twisted around in her seat to look at her. "Oh please, everybody knows that you and your mama are the two biggest gossips in town."
"We are not!"
"Jezzie, you can't tell anybody," Abigail said. "Especially not your mama."
"My mama - "
"Jezebel!" Wendy Jo exclaimed. "This is between Ren and Ariel. So be a good friend and keep your mouth shut for once, alright?"
Jezebel folded her arms and pouted. "I wasn't going to tell anybody anyway."
Wendy Jo started the car and pulled out of the parking lot. The car ride was silent as she dropped Abigail and Jezebel off at their homes before going home herself.
Jezebel muttered angrily to herself as she walked up the steps of her porch to her front door. She and her mama weren't gossips! It's just that she always told her mama everything; they had an open, honest relationship, and what could be wrong with that?
She fished her key out of her purse and stepped inside her house.
"Hey baby, did you have fun with your friends?" Mrs. Miller asked.
"Yes Mama," she replied.
She hesitated for a moment, thinking about what her friends said. But really they had no right to say those awful things about her and her mama, and she would prove them wrong.
"Mama," she started, "you won't believe what I found out."
I think Urleen and Jezebel are my favorite characters to write. Aren't her and Travis cute?! And what do you think of Jezebel? And Tony?
Oh, and I invented Jezebel, Tony, Abigail, Poppy, and Shasta. And I came up with the last names for Bickle, Jeter, Garvin, Travis, Lyle, Wendy Jo, Urleen, and Rusty.